Editorials, Opinion

State-mandated campus carry is a terrible policy

Last week, MetroNews’ Mike Nolting caught up with college officials around the region as they prepare to implement campus carry next July. So now seems as good a time as any to reiterate that state-mandated campus carry is a terrible policy.

As a reminder, the West Virginia Legislature passed the West Virginia Self-Defense Act during the last legislative session, which will require all publicly funded colleges in the state to allow concealed carry on campus, with limited exceptions.

If we’re reading the legislation correctly, concealed carry will be allowed in: residence hall common areas — any common area, really; classrooms; outdoor university property; and, of course, in the gun owner’s own room.

First, this is a terrible law because the last thing stressed out young adults — who may not have their usual support systems — need is easy access to firearms and the ability to take them almost anywhere on campus. We’ve given you the data before: The less time between the decision to kill oneself and the attempt, the more likely the attempt will be successful; suicide attempts with firearms are more successful than any other method. Ergo, quick access to guns equals more suicide deaths.

Plus, research has repeatedly indicated our brains do not finish developing until we’re roughly 25. Until we reach that point, we don’t fully understand long-term, big-picture ideas and consequences. So, when you’re a college student who just failed a midterm, it can and does feel like the end of the world, because you can’t see far enough ahead to a future where that one failed test doesn’t matter.

And, of course, there’s the damage that gun-wielding students can inflict upon others: The 2007 Virginia Tech Massacre still immediately comes to mind; in 2022, a University of Virginia student opened fire on a bus full of his peers. And those are the extreme examples. What’s more likely is an increase in shootings related to arguments and/or domestic violence in which only one or two people are hurt.

The other reason this is a terrible policy is because it amounts to an unfunded mandate. Colleges have to either provide a residence hall (two, for WVU’s Morgantown campus) with a secure communal storage locker; or provide personal gun safes/lockers for individual dorm rooms.

Sure, universities can charge a fee for the gun safes, but there’s a ton of upfront cost for either option and the Legislature has not provided any funding. (A few legislators seem open to the idea, but we’re not hopeful given lawmakers’ unusual disdain for higher education.)

 What happens if a college can’t fill its designated firearm-friendly dorm with concealed carry permit holders? What if non-gun-using students refuse to fill the remaining empty beds? Will the state reimburse the school for lost room and board revenue?

No matter which way you look at, the West Virginia Self-Defense Act is terrible policy. It is the epitome of government overreach: an unfunded mandate that interferes with local control and personal choice. What’s worse, unlike some of the Legislature’s other terrible policies, this one is likely to end in someone’s death.